Tuesday, December 30, 2008

There is Nothing Sorry About You

Blessings of Being Awake: I am aware that I am hearing the word sorry very often lately. For example; 'I am sorry I shut the door in your face' or 'I am so sorry about your mother's death' or 'so sorry I did not mean to hurt you' or 'I am so sorry I forgot to call and say thank you for the gift.' It seems people are trying to be kind and regretful of their behavior and others' unhappiness and in the the use of the phrase 'I'm sorry' they are not saying what they really mean. I'm sorry is used in place of 'Wow, I wasn't watching the door' or 'you must be experiencing so many emotions at you mother's death' or 'my intention was not to hurt you' or 'oops that was not kind of me to not let you know I received your gift'.

Spiritual Challenge : When someone speaks to me those words I have been saying 'there is nothing sorry about you.' If they are paying attention they usually smile and agree with me. I do not want to be right. I want to remind others and me to live up to our bigness. I am trying to go beyond my disappointment and anger and frustration when I sent our holiday gift-checks and heard nothing! I had to dig deep this time to care for myself, to look at what I have and choose down stream thinking! Saying thank you to those who bring me to the untruth thoughts of separation and isolation takes a lot of inner work. Since I have chosen to love me I am working hard to take deep breaths and think in 'ands' and paradoxes.

Spiritual Practice: Knowing there is nothing sorry about me and I have chosen 'peace of mind' over being stuck in narrow places and a slave to my thoughts I am choosing to act in truth and love as if the amazing people in my life are interrelated with me and to reach out to them. I decided that when I do not hear from them I am no longer going to linger or wonder or wait. I texted them to find out if they received the gifts. And what gifts I received, more than I ever expected, a continued and deepened relationship! Another gift from You, thank us for staying in touch!
Blessings of the Vav: I am complete and the story dynamically continues! TG!!!!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Meditation is Saving My Life

This post was originally written as if mediation had saved my life and now I was onto other things. The truth is that meditation was the first step toward learning to live with me and the world and my evolving mindfulness practice where I am being kind to my self, opposing the mind that loves to doubt, judge, numb and suffer. I have changed the title of this essay to reflect an on going meditation practice. So when you read this essay take that into consideration. Thank you.

Blessings of Being Awake
: So again I am giving attention to the fractals in my life and oh how I love patterns that repeat themselves as within them I feel held and order reigns. And I know better than that as even each part of a fractal is not the same they just fall together in love.

I have also noticed that I am talking with several of my coaching clients more regularly of the importance of having a spiritual practice. I often use myself as a model for them and when I tell them about my meditation practice that developed into a mindfulness practice I often use the phrase ‘it saved my life.’ And I believe it did.

In September of 1996, right before the rainy season, I arrived on the island of Koh Pang Ghan in the south of Thailand and hired a young man to carry me and my backpack up the mountain on his motor scooter. I was on my way to the Buddhist monastery Wat Kow Tom for ten days of silence. Rosemary and Steven were the best teachers I ever experienced. They did everything in their power to make it emotionally safe to just be; provided an order of the day with written instructions available to all on the dining room bulletin board, followed through with what they said they would do as have the times of our personal schedules displayed at a certain time and modeled their simple teachings. Those ten days were full of learnings and experiences I value to this day and say a deep thank you!

Spiritual Challenge: My new teachers knew about the mind that loves to wander even race from thought to thought, emotion to emotion. They knew the mind loves to suffer. And they knew we were here to make the world a better place. I knew the first two were true; I had lived what all they spoke of. And I was grateful to have lived as long to learn I am not alone. From my Hebrew Wisdom teaching I understand making the world a better place, Tikkun Olam-healing the world- and with self love I am learning I can be a part of making a difference.

Now with an opening heart carefully being circumcised I can appreciate the universal truths of Hebrew Wisdom that keep me mindful of the moment helping me to learn to live with my Self in peace, Shalom, and as Shalem, whole. Distractions come like fractals challenging me to stay true to me and my values of ‘that is all we need is love…da da da da da.’ I remember a long time ago balking at some young women students who told me they loved me; what do they know of love I thought to myself while being graciously polite. Now I do beleive that more and more each day.

Spiritual Practice: To believe and act on the truth that the Body is my holy friend, the Indwelling Presence of the Divine. From paying attention to Her I learn what to eat, when to sleep, when to stay away from something and when to do more! And I have so much still to learn as I am just a beginner.

For at least two years and every day at the Monastery I said the following words and when I said them as a mantra the mind eventually settled down and the heart opened to possibilities:
May I have great compassion for myself as I notice and then let go of the fear, anger, worry, doubt and ignorance, may I preserve my well being
May I continue to have the patience, courage, wisdom and faith to face the problems and challenges that come my way, may I have peace of mind.

My spiritual practice is evolving with prayer, solitude, creativity and building deeper relationships with my G!D, me and others in my life; the many pieces and multiple realities of an improvisational life. I am a Vav-nik of course what else could be true? I read The Shack a few weeks ago and was surprised at how it helped deepen my G!D link. When in tight places I call out 'Mah Yakar Hasedecha', how Precious is Your Loving Kindness' or recite in Hebrew the 13 attributes of G!D and find myself back in relationship with Her and me at least until the next distraction.
Blessings of the Vav: I am complete and the story dynamically continues! TG!!!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Musing on the Moment

Blessings of staying awake: As I prepared to open my home for a celebration of creating my very new real home and the lighting of the first Chanukah lights I took a moment to write these notes.

Dear Ones,
At this point in time of the longest day, the Winter Solstice,
and the shortest night,
as we move into the 25th of Kislev, the first night of Chanukah
and a celebration-dedication of my living space by raising the sides of my tent
and welcoming the souls who have soothed my transitional move
I think of you in other physical places and held tenderly here in my heart.

My blessings go to you of peace of mind and heart
Of joy and befriending of the moment
Of friendship and a deep full breath
to ease adjustments to whatever 2009 will bring.

And may each word of the blessings we say strengthen us
Open our eyes to the beauty around us
And to the abundance of what we have
And may we each feel the Love available any time.

Happy Chanukah, Joyous Solstice, Happy Kwanza and Merry Merry Christmas!

TZiPi

Spiritual Challenge: To keep my heart open so that I can continue to write from it and receive the love that comes back. Also to have the patience with myself and others when i am thrown a curve ball and my knees are not as loose as I would like and I trip on my own expectations. Oh, being human is tough some time! I am feeling drained from having so many people in my space for 3 hours and being the host which i love and i love my quietude also. Taking a hot bath would be great instead of answer the e-mails, washing the floor and returning all I borrowed.

Spiritual Practice: To stop; breathe deeply, smiles with happy eyes and laugh at me. I am in such a habit of judging me when I do not live up to my own expectations..I have to remember to notice and remember I am fluid not a stone!!!!!

Blessings of the Vav: I am complete and the story dynamically continues! TG!!!!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Challenges of Holding Multiple Realities

Blessings of Staying Awake: Years ago I went to several workshops on the Enneagram and learned I was a 'Four'. To me that meant I was in the caring group and I had a strong need to be different. I felt comfortable with that category. Then recently I took an on-line questionnaire based on the Enneagram and I still came out a Four. I was relieved at the consistency and I began thinking of the blessings and curses of uniqueness. My need to be unique often isolates me and keeps me righteous and judging and gives me a flare if I dare to let my true colors fly.

This Thanksgiving morning as I lay on the grass overlooking the inter-coastal waterway being led through stretching my mind and body in various Pilates poses a thought crossed my mind. My uniqueness that I hold onto for dear life is also everyone's gift from the Divine. And I then asked myself 'Why was I trying so hard to value it as better?' I laughed at my child who screams 'Mine!' not wanting to share. And as I heard my yoga teacher telling us that each breath was unique and not to compete with others or yourself my mind wandered to the thought how universally true that was.

My thoughts took me down the path that in Hebrew the root of the words breath and soul are the same and I was caught up in this Divine, mysterious connection. I told myself in that moment that since my soul is unique with a specific mission that competing or isolating myself only makes my mission more difficult or impossible. And I began welling up as we lay in the corpse pose and Jerry read Melody Beatty's words on self love.

Spiritual Challenge: my life is not separate scenes disconnected from each other. Each scene is vibrantly connected to another and I am connected to them in the same way. To remember what I teach as a rabbi and holder of a universal truth is that it is all about relationships whether it is to space, things, people, weather or souls and remember that I truly am never alone.

Spiritual Practice: to continue making time during the day to stop, breathe, and focus on the moment for no other reason than it is my discipline for getting what I want; a deeper relationship with my divine self that is interrelated with the world.

Blessings of the Vav: I am complete and the story dynamically continues! TG!!!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Getting the Word Out

How does an introvert express the deep desires of her heart without preaching or pushing her values and views on others? I started making specialized business cards.

Several years ago I was obsessed with asking people to pray for peace in the Middle East. I took business cards and printed on one side 'Take three minutes to pray for peace in the Middle East'.

On the other side I typed: 'Not by might and not by power but by Spirit alone shall we all live in peace' from Debbie Freedman's song based on Zacharia's prophetic words.

Then recently I was obsessed with the phrase 'Love yourself as if you were your own lover'. So I made up cards that said that on one side and the other 'Why not, you are amazing!' And I passed them out, left them in bathrooms and on shelfs where I thought they would be found.

Now I have made postcards to reflect my latest obsession to 'de-but' the world through the Hebrew Wisdom of the Vav. One side of the post card asks: Are you a Vav-nik?
Vav-nik: one who honors Hebrew Wisdom and the linking energy-intelligence of the Vav through behavior and intent. The Vav is the 6th letter of the Hebrew alphabet and is
most often translated as AND.

On the other side is written:
Vav-nik Intentions
- we can hold multiple realities and truths
- life is improvisational and one must learn to dance with the need of the moment building bridges between people and thoughts
- our individuality is our gift we bring into collaborating

Vav-nik Behaviors
- choosing to use the word AND instead of BUT
- being able to sit next to an 'enemy' and engage in authentic non judgmental conversation

Sarah Bernhardt once said to get people to know who you are you must use all modes of connection. Beside her movie and theater presence she had her name on soaps, food, paper, clothes and more than I can remember. Now her name is a word that my generation and other movie buffs are familiar with.

Perhaps by putting all this energy into honoring the linking energy of the Vav this too will become something people will think about and set the intention that we are all connected so why not treat each other with the love we are taught to give to our self; love the stranger as your self.

Blessings of Vav: there is no end to the realities and the love I can hold and the ways they can be expressed. I am complete and the story dynamically continues! TG!!!!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Prayer to a Compassionate G!D

Yesterday I was listening to a radio show where the participants were talking about the power of prayer that helped them pass the amendment that would not only limit my rights and other lesbian and gay people in Florida and California but the rights of many people who choose not to marry and live together. I wonder who is their God who takes sides to discriminate against me?

I have a friend whose body is filled with cancerous tumors and we are beginning a prayer circle for her through the Internet. I believe in praying for healing that is about self love. What is so different about this kind of prayer? I am asking for something that does not exclude some one else's human rights.

I am asking myself why I did not consider praying that the Florida amendment not pass? Why did I think it was only necessary to pass out information, write letters, send money and talk to people. What kept me from asking my G!D to help me have the strength and courage to love and accept myself in contrast to the hatred of gays and lesbians in the world.

Rabbi Geoff says we tend to be logicians and stay in our heads forgetting we live in all four worlds: physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual. I needed to remember that my G!D is a G!D of compassion and I can set a Kavanah, intention, that is non-linear and inclusive and does not take sides. Since my G!D can hold in the womb of creation all; perhaps like our ancestor Rebecca with Essau and Jacob we can wrestle and both come out alive.

Hebrew Wisdom teaches that prayer comes from the heart. The wisdom of my heart knows this amendment to the Florida constitution was discriminatory and limiting. I wonder what kept me from going deeply inside, setting a Kavanah for what is the highest good for both sides and talking with my G!D? And then to listen to the voice of Chesed, loving kindness and Gevurah, strength, that both blend with the energy of the heart, Tifferet, beauty and equanimity.

So I set an intention to have more conversations with my G!D in and out of prayer.

Blessings of the Vav: sometimes I have to hold my passion, my logical thinking and my relationship with my G!D together. The questioning and wrestling with my G!D and then the deep listening may help me heal as the covering of my heart slowly melts away and for a moment I will feel a part of the world I often protect myself from.

Residuals of a Life Out of Control


Today I missed a client's appointment. My responsible respectful kind adult was not in control as my little girl focused only on her wanting to play. So after coming home from a shopping spree I hunted down a good movie and drove 30 minutes to a place I had never been to before. I was determined to do be spontaneously frivolous.

'Oh, my G!D, what have I done?' I shuttered when I checked my phone and discovered I had missed the appointment. And I was reminded of the time I had bounced a check to my therapist. As I sat in a pool of shame as a dysfunctional patient and graduate student my therapist laughed and told me of the time when she had bounced a check and realized her life was out of control.

Blessings of the Vav: some times holding all of life's realities is like attempting to juggle all the other's needs and not including myself. And all I can do is laugh, learn, forgive, apologize and move on! And thank G!D for Shabbas, a moment in time to regroup and listen deeply to the me that felt dissed and offer a gratis session to my client! Halleluyah!!!!!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Shalom: Saying Good Bye and Hello


Tomorrow night I will join Jews all over the world as the sun sets to honor the ending of the year 5768 and begin to celebrate the birth of the world and the new year, 5769. I am so excited and ready. There has been much intensity in this last month of creativity and travel and I am ready to pause and notice the moment and be with my people.

It is a time of renewal of coming back to my true self, of forgiveness of myself and of others and of the opening of the Book of Life. We will chant this week on Rosh Hashonah and next week on Yom Kippur ' and who will die and who will live'. I take a deep breath thinking about these words as they remind me of how much I do not know, of how much I have influence on and how much I have to learn.

Letting go of the past and making room for the next moment is a dance I am learning. And when I have not let go of 'enuff' of this past then I will have the opportunity of seeing it again and again and again. And I laugh and know that I am not laughing alone with me.

5768 has been an extraordinary year of letting go and uncovering my heart. This blog has been a vessel for my shedding of the Klippot, the covering of my heart and soul so that I can be more authentic with myself and others and do my part in healing the world. This week's Torah portion translates that G!D is aware of the concealed places and is the uncoverer of the heart. So as I do my strip tease dance She is right there catching the veils and smiling at my courage to be me after all these years. And I am amazed that I have not given up even when I wanted to.

So the circle of life continues, as it is a circle to me, a spiral continuing to move outward and upward, embracing more and more love with each cycle, each threshold I cross over.

Blessings of the Vav: life is a cycle of hello's and good byes, on and on through eternity so why not join in choosing life since i have partner at each crossing.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Learning To Be Held in Elul

Elul, the last month of the Hebrew Wisdom calendar is an opportunity for transformation in returning to my true self. Mindy Ribner in Kabbalah Month by Month writes that it is a time to complete unfinished business, plan for the future, deepen a relationship with G!D and do all this with kindness.

Blessings of Mindfullness and Being Awake:
When Holly was 9 she asked her mom if I, one of her mom’s best friends, was gay. Knowing Holly’s close relationship with me her mom replied ‘why don’t you ask her yourself?’ Holly responded ‘ I do not want to hurt her feelings.’

What is it that this wise curious sensitive nine year old already knew?

When Kendall was in college and in the process of coming out as lesbian she asked me, her mom’s dear friend whom she knew was in relationship with a woman ‘what would you do if your daughter told you she was gay?’ I replied ‘I would be concerned because it would be a very hard life.’

Kendall went away angry and sad and confused and valuing the truth and wanting to prove me, her older friend, wrong.

What would I be without the thought that being lesbian is something I have to be careful with like a sharp knife or lit match? What kind of emotional damage am I protecting others from that I do not think also attacks me and leaves a legacy of fear of being one’s self with my daughters and their offspring?

In my several years of living a life of loving women I have had many opportunities to see the joys and gifts of being lesbian. And then there were situations where I reached out to someone I thought might be lesbian or gay to offer a helping hand and have frequently been told to mind my own business and that I was wrong!! Gay-dar gone wrong!

How long does it take to learn that whom you are is something not many want to be?

In my dissertation I wrote that the definition of lesbian I found in the literature is ‘affectional and or sexual relationships with women’. When I tell my women cousins and friends whom I am close with this citation some say ‘ not me’ others say well I guess I am lesbian. I can accept both responses and I feel a lot safer around women who admit that their love of women is that amazing and valid that they can give themselves an adjective that others might find repulsive.

I often wonder how long does it take to love my many colors and make that a priority over hate?

When I travel by air my daughter Ilana often blesses me that I should sit next to an angel. Yesterday my angel was a man from one of my daughter Andrea’s home town and a distant relative of her husband. He was a delightful flying partner sharing his life story and engaging with mine. I try to be aware of my stereotypes and yet am unconsciously incompetent many times. And there was something about the way my angel moved, his language and quick wit that made me think he was a gay man. And I was hoping for a real conversation.

And as the plane got closer to our destination I struggled for what seemed forever on how to approach the subject delicately I knew there were some gay men in my daughter’s husband’s family and I was hoping my angel was one of them. I cautiously asked if he had heard of Soulforce or Mel White one of its founders. Sounds familiar this polite Southerner responded and then asked what they were. I took a very deep breath praying for Divine intervention and said Mel White is the co-founder of this non violent Christian organization that supports gays and lesbians and without a beat he said his brother was gay, lived in San Fransisco with his partner and was active in Human Rights Campaign. I relaxed having passed through the gate and felt relieved. I also felt disappointed while continuing to engage him in conversations about family and gay issues. Then he told me he was divorced after 21 years of marriage to a wonderful woman and that many of his friends thought he was gay. He did not think so. I told him about my research on coming out and that others often know before we do. He said ‘he got that one’ as he had just decided to run for political office and when he told his friends they responded ‘ at last’ and ‘Great!’

Then I took my boldest move and said that I had only brought up the gay issue because I thought that perhaps he was gay. He laughed and said 'not right now' and I will think on it. I responded his knowing would come from his heart. He agreed. And I then told him the “Holly” story. He said he understood as some of his family members had to work at accepting his brother. As the plane landed and we walked off in different directions I watched as he headed toward his gate and I thought what a lovely sashay.

What happens when you dare to tell the truth and stand in awe and delight at being received?

After all these years of loving women and men, counseling lesbians and gay men, doing workshops on making the professional environment gay friendly, encouraging people to come out that maybe I am beginning to own and then to hold less tightly the thought that being different in loving women is not dangerous and that perhaps being out can bring me closer into relationships.

Perhaps I can act on the fact that in accepting my different-ness I can also become more consciously competent in accepting others' uniqueness. Oh, dear, what will I be when those judging thoughts only choke me for a little bit of time? LOL-laugh out loud-my grandsons would say!

Blessings of the Vav: Saying “Yes and” to life is following the Hebrew Wisdom of ‘choose life’ and trusting that there is something bigger than me making the world a better place. I have only to love and be me, authentic and not try to save the world as I already am. Hebrew wisdom also teaches that in saving one life you have saved the world!!! Halleluyah!!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Finding Allies and Building Bridges


I have been trying to seek out other voices that would support Agudat Havav, The Society of the Vav. There is a universal wisdom each of us is hearing and the honoring of these paths to the same goal of healing the world helps me feel less alone and more supported in my truth.

I am always reminding myself that life is improvisational so why not pull from 'improv' wisdom. The 'yes and' exercise Avish Parashas writes about is to support the universal truth that life is fluid and dynamic and always changing and always connected to the next, previous and simultaneous moment.

Susan Scott in Fierce Conversations and Marshal Goldsmith and What Got You Here Won't Get You There each write about the and versus the but. And how the power of the words we use indicate our intention. But has the power to make one right and another wrong, to negate anything that comes before it. Where and connotes an acceptance of multiple realities where all is real and cannot be rationalized away.

In mediation and when people are coming together to create something that did not exist before Stephen Colbert reminds us that it is imperative that each voice be valid. And or yes and would allow the flow of thought without a 'one upping' of each other. My voice then would be valid no matter the ego of another.

Scion's marketing department has created a powerful video advertisement for their varied models. It begins by showing various models of cars coming together in the dessert. The tag line is What makes us different brings us together: United by Individuality. How far I often feel from that moment.

The Sages tell us that when the Hebrews gathered around Mt. Sinai to hear the Ten Sayings and see the sound and hear the light each person was placed at a particular spot so each could hear their piece of truth that each has a responsibility to fulfill each lifetime. We are also taught not to covet for each of us has a path and must stay true to it no matter the distractions that we may run into. And I know my coveting thoughts especially when I am off the path. So I notice when I want to be or do what someone else is doing and use it as a red flag to come back to center, be tender and then begin again staying true to me.

Falling asleep is so easy. Settling is staying in line and living an vanilla life. I want more: Frida Kahlo is my hero as is Cher who is constantly reinventing herself. I can live without the surgery even though sometimes when I look in the mirror I wonder how I got those wrinkles when I am feeling so young and alive! Another paradoxical moment of AND.

Blessings of the Vav: And the beat goes on and on and on and on....

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Being Included Is Like breath To Me

A review of Love Bade Me Welcome to honor Phyllis Silverman Ott-Toltz. The memoir was written with Barbara Bamberger Scott.

Only when a person expresses uniqueness can a meaningful joining with others occur. Hoffman p.36 on the meanings of Vav, 6th Hebrew letter.

In the early 70’s when I had been married a few years my mother enrolled me as a life member of Hadassah, an International Jewish women’s organization. I think she was hoping it would help me stay more connected with the Jewish people since I married someone who was not Jewish and at the time was living in the Bible Belt of South Carolina. And she was right and I am sure she had no idea how this gift would heal my heart around my ‘other-ness’.

A few years ago I was musing through the monthly Hadassah magazine and in the recently published book section the word Meher Baba jumped out and my heart skipped a beat with excitement and the feeling of disorientation. I took a deep breath and thought I am reading a traditional Jewish magazine and how did my ‘outside life’ get here?

In the late 90’s early 2000 I had returned to the Jewish community with the passion of a Baal Teshuvah, one who returns. My path included; studing in my local Reform community that led me to become a Bat Mitzvah, searching for ways to bridge my Buddhist practice with Judaism, working at Elat Chayyim a Jewish Renewal retreat center as an intern and then two years on summer staff and listening to my heart that kept saying “I want to become rabbi’ by first applying to rabbinical college and when rejected aligning myself with a rabbi who would train and then ordain me Rabbi.

Since Buddhist meditation had enabled my returning to Judaism by softening the covers around my heart, I therefore wanted to learn contemplation from a Hebrew Wisdom perspective to continue with my coming Home. One winter when I could not make it from North Carolina where I was living to the retreat in New York a local friend recommended Meher Baba Spiritual Center in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I was desperate for silence gave them a call.

The center welcomes guests if they are not members as long as they are interested in learning about Meher Baba and his teachings. I learned that Meher Baba was an avatar living his life as a god man. MBSC was established in the 1940s with a gift of about 500 acres on the Atlantic Ocean. Although he visited there only one time from India MBSC holds his holiness and his devotees created a wildlife sanctuary that was exquisitely run in the beginning by several women devotees and now is maintained mostly by volunteers. Wearing my kippah and asking for my silence to be honored I was welcomed with great love and appreciation of my tradition and needs. At first I was cautious as Baba's pictures were everywhere and I was not sure of anyone's intention. Yet the more I visited the more comfortable I became with the acceptance and love available by staff. It was easy for me to want to return many times after that. At MBSC the teaching is to be yourself, don’t worry be happy. A nd that love is eternally there and yours for the asking, also core teachings of Hebrew Wisdom.

And I am continually and unconsciously looking for role models, sisters who will soothe the pain of feeling unique and different and outside the norm and help me celebrate my uniqueness and not feel weird. So when I read about Phyllis Ott and Meher Baba in the Hadassah magazine I was very curious and immediately ordered the book.

When the book arrived I stopped everything as I was hungry for the unknown. I was delighted to find out that Phyllis and I had many things in common. We were both born Jewish, grew up in small working class communities around the North Shore of Boston and both Aries with our birthdays five days and about 15 years apart. We are mothers and women spiritual searchers for the Divine who wrestle with what it means to be and live as a Jew. Our schooling took different routes as she found her intellectual place and artistic passion early at home and through being a graduate of Radcliff-Harvard and as an artist. The book is a memoir told to a friend. She and her collaborator Barbara hold nothing back recording her life as other great painters with large brush strokes while giving great attention to all the details for accuracy even the ones we wish were forgotten. Love Bade Me Welcome describes her transformation from a very bright curious and ‘scared kid’ to a brave woman artist secure in her devotion to her mentor Meher Baba.

Phyllis continues to live at MBSC in the home where her husband Lynn and their children spent several years as the only family Meher Baba allowed to live on the land. She travels, creates and hosts family, friends and guests that arrive at the center. Her life continues to offer challenges that keep her vital as she passes on her wisdom through mentoring others.

The next time I was at MBSC I called Phyllis and she welcomed me into her home and life and our friendship began. In our times together she loved to interject her Hebrew Wisdom heritage into the conversation seeking validation of a memory or engaging in questioning of perspectives. I think Phyllis would be pleased as I compare her book to a Vidui, a traditional Hebrew Wisdom process of confession, a truth telling as one prepares to die, a telling of the stories hidden in the heart. And I do not think Phyllis Ott is ready to die; she is wanting the world to feel connected to her and now all who read her story are joined with her in this world and eternally. May everyone be so blessed to say Henanai, I am here.

'Love is there whether you want it or not' Phyllis told me recently. I know I love with Phyllis. She has offered her self as a role model and has inspired me to continue my spiritual journey as a proud woman, to stand as erect as the Vav as that is the only way one can truely connect with anyone. She encourages me to weave in all my colors, the bold proud parts and the pale hidden parts by bringing them out of the closet removing any remnant of shame and to laugh at the weaving of life and how the beauty of all these pieces create a collage that strengthens my connection to my G!D and in doing so makes me happy. With this offering of a perspective I am smiling and wondering what comes next? Who knows, maybe a memoir for my daughters to read the parts I could not tell them in person and then they can have a different role model for truth telling that may be a transforming element for their life.

Blessings of the Vav: everyone wants to feel the power of connection. Thank you, Phyllis, for including yourself in my life and letting me feel the joys of being included in yours.

Friday, August 8, 2008

A Birth Day


When the sun rose this morning I remembered that I became a mother 46 years ago and I smiled at the gift given to me when I was not looking. I sit here knowing that when the sun sets in a few hours that I will begin 26 hours of rest and I am taking a deep breath and patiently try to sit here for just a few more minutes before I will perhaps experience a piece of the world to come. When Shabbat is over the saddest day in Hebrew Wisdom history will begin and I can hear the haunting chant of Lamentations ringing in my ears and feel the universal sadness of loss and destruction of dreams.

I am in awe that I can hold in my heart the uniqueness of each of these very powerful events and not blend them, not give them a hierarchy, not loose their impact on my life and not try to categorize or explain them away. Each is as important as the creative project I am giving birth to today.

It has been almost 11 months since I began this blog and started looking at the blessings of the sixth Hebrew letter, vav. My new Israeli friend Beenie helped find a new Hebrew name for this idea that came through me: Agoodat HaVav because Agoodah infers connection and connecting to me and others is my intention, my deepest desire. And I am continuing to water the concepts without knowing where we are going for I am building my faith in the Mystery I sometimes call She, Shechinah, In-Dwelling Presence or G!D.

One of my daughter's fears is that she will not fulfill her mission as a mother or wife and that she will do the same behavior that her mother displayed and leave in the middle of a run. I have the same feeling floating through my heart and abandonment is not an option as I am not a grasshopper like my ancestors thought they would think of themselves. My spirit is full and large and I have the tenacity of the leader that I am.

Watering sounds like such a little chore. Trust me it is not as distractions are rampant. My other thought-options are that there is not enough water, I cannot find the vessel to carry the water, where is the tree anyway, where is the water and I am not good enough to do it. These thoughts are upstream thoughts and not acceptable to this mind. I am The One who is doing the watering and I am taking my commitments seriously.

I am watering from the eternal well of the society of the Vav: this is a holographic loop as the Vav is the tree, is the body of the Holy Name and is the well eternal, Mayan Raz my sisterhood of friends. What a powerful image to hold as I shut off my connection to the world and contemplate rest, study and love.

Shabbat Shalom, 7 Av 5768.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

New Moon; An Opportunity for a Renewal Life

The intention of the month of Tammuz is to look at things as they are. As I prepare to step into the Mikveh, ritual bath, and cleanse myself of the past months experiences I begin to think and feel what I want to cleanse myself from and what new intentions I want to set.

This month my coaching focused on what I was feeling I was missing and what in actuality I have….lots! I am Maayan Raz, an eternal spring. Not that I am special in any way; this eternal spring is within everyone and we, I, just have to remember this truth.

Eternal Spring means to me that I am connected to the Divine, I am never alone; whether or not my heart is innocent, uncovered, unclouded by the emotions that can constrict the natural rhythmic flow, living in the present moment and imagining possibilities.

So what do I do to remember this truth since I do forget? I teach what I have to learn; I put me at the top of my list, I welcome and surround myself with people who are sometimes wild and crazy and do not limit their thinking and those who do I try to learn from them. I take good care of myself, most times, through eating what I need to keep me healthy, exercising, resting and having objects around me that remind me of joy, love and possibilities. I acknowledge what I know and how much more I want and have to learn. I listen to my heart. I ask for forgiveness of myself and others. I admit what I do not know and have forgotten. I listen to what I speak to my clients and learn from what they tell me. I look for fractals, patterns that appear in my life. I am learning that in order for a spring to continue to flow that I need to be replenished and cleansed from all sources.

Blessings of the Vav: Life is an eternal spring if I choose to see it that way; I can see life as if it is chaos and then I can take a deep breath knowing this too shall pass and a new moment, new month, shall arise offering me an opportunity to begin anew.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Hungry Ghosts and the Grasshopper Story.


In the Chinese tradition, I learned while reading Lisa See's novel Peony in Love, when a person dies and does not have completion of their life's mission they are called a hungry ghosts. And their energy hangs around until fed and then completed. In Hebrew Wisdom this is called a dybbuk, an entity that stays around the living whom it is connected to hoping for a resolution that will send it's soul on it's way. It seems it is the emotions that remain unfettered.

While reading Jason Shulman's Kabbalistic Healing I learned about the emotions in the world of Yetzera that need to be integrated in order to be able to hold the paradox of opposite emotions and to be clear in the thinking of the world of Beria.

The emotions that I seem addicted to I am now calling hungry ghosts and I decided that if I fed them, gave them attention, perhaps they would not need to keep hanging around and distracting my energy from getting what I want.

So as I noticed the flickering of an emotion that I would have typically tossed aside I instead started paying attention and drawing the ghosts and naming each one for instance: 'the need to look good hungry ghost', 'the never enuff hungry ghost', 'the fear of failure HG', or 'I want to be special HG'. Instead of keep tripping over them I have decided to stop denying their presence and just 'feed them'. Once day I even made a plate of food and put it outjust as the people in See's book do.

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is what I call the grasshopper story when ten of the 12 spies Moses sent to check out the holy land return saying that there were giants over the Jordan and the giants would see the Hebrews as grasshoppers and the Hebrews would also see themselves as grasshoppers. When G!D heard this an immediate decision was made, no one with those thoughts could go into the holy land and the years of wandering began.

So with the strength of a giant I am facing my hungry ghosts, feeding them and sending them on their way so I can get into the holy land sooner rather than latter. Why not? Only G!D knows how much time I have on this earth and I have too much to do to get hung up on any of these grasshopper moments.

Blessings of the Vav: to be clear of heart and mind a whole picture must be viewed and including all emotions: I am sad and happy about leaving and going all in one breath.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Intention: To Save a Life


In Hebrew Wisdom we are taught the importance of the intention to save one life. In fact the poster on the wall in my friends' home quotes the Talmud; who ever destroys a single life destroys the entire world and who ever saves a single life saves the the world entire.

I believe that I have always wanted to make the world a better place. When I was a young mother in Peabody I donated many times to the Red Cross as I thought that my blood was the only thing I had to give.

Yesterday I worked with a woman who felt caught in the fortress around her heart. The next day after our session she was beaming no longer captured by the past. She wrote me short note saying that 'you not only saved a life you did a mitzvah.' A mitzvah is a way of connecting my soul with the Divine and being directly on one's mission path.

When I wonder about my work as a rabbi and what impact I have on people as a healer of hearts I will remember this moment. I remember the erev Shavuot when many Jews stay up all night studying when a group of women got together to study and told their stories of their relationship with Judaism. It was a lovely evening, gentle, kind, open and when everyone was heading home each said let us do it again as they felt connected in a new way to their roots and that made them happy.

Today a healer asked me if I had been working with people who have so many gifts they were confused as to which path to follow. In getting caught in my linear, all or nothing, good or bad thinking I can limit my choices to how I will love myself and my life! We spoke of embracing and integrating our passions and living one life that is layered with passions over a life time; each passion feeding the other like the ob-gyn doc who loves to paint.

How can I save my life? I tell my clients that a good coach listens deeply to their voice and to my inner voice and then we collaborate to help them get what they want and need. I must do that for myself , too.

Writing helps me accept myself and to be confident as I am embracing all of me as I create and save one life.

Blessings of the Vav; if the vav can save the world then the and can save my life through including all of me, loving all of me despite the rough spots I am saving my life for Who knows what will come next.

Monday, June 16, 2008

I Know Nothing Or At Least I Need to Pretend I Do


On Friday I received a message from a healer friend in Israel that she needed some hands on help with some distance work she was doing with a woman in Brooklyn. Sunday I was able to connect with the family. Not knowing what I am capable of and how I can help I moved in slowly; speaking directly of my limited experience for their needs and offering to do what I could to find someone locally for them. When I got off the phone I tried very hard to sit in a place of not knowing asking for information that might lead to know what my part in this process was. I was aware of how the ego was playing and teasing me to be more involved, judging me for not jumping in to play. When a persistent idea kept coming into my consciousness I called and offered that information to the family and as we talked more thoughts arose that I offered that was helpful and mind expanding for the family member I was speaking with. In the humble place of not knowing there was space for information that is needed to arise. I am in awe.

Blessings of the Vav: even when I think that I know what belongs after the next 'and' I must breathe deeply and allow what needs to fit the space to arise without the arrogant nature and desperate mind's need to fill space taking over. I must impose impulse control and tzitzim, make space for the other. I am not alone! Another moment to act in the image of G!D.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

An Artist's Prayer


As I move through the place I am leaving seeing the details I cannot avoid I found this prayer I had stuck up on the transom of my office/creativity room. I have had it for quite a while and could not throw it away and yet in its present condition I could not take it with me. So I sat at the computer to copy it and as I read it I knew I needed to create a new poem based on the one that an anonymous person had written adding my touch and hopefully new energy for my new home. I think we are are all artist's in our own way; not quite like Betzelel and yet who is judging? If we are all created in the image of the Divine and in Her likeness then we are capable of being creative doing our part to enhance the beauty of what we have.

An Artist’s Prayer

O Great Creator of All Life, Breath of our Breath
We gather Here in Your name
That we may be of service to You
And to our sisters and brothers
We offer ourselves to you as instruments
We open ourselves to your creativity in our lives
We surrender to you our old ideas
We welcome your new and more expansive thoughts
We trust that you will lead
We trust that it is safe to follow
We know you created us and that creativity
Is Your nature and our own
We ask you to unfold our lives
According to Your plan and let us see what we have deemed impossible
Help us to believe that it is never too late
And we are can be healed and feel the connectedness with all things
Help us to love one another
To nurture each other’s unfolding
To encourage each other’s growth
And understand each other’s fears
Help us to know that we are never alone
That we are made in Your Image and loved and lovable
Help us to create as an act of worship to You.
adapted from Julia Cameron in The Artist's Way

Blessings of the Vav: In adding our touch we are creating something new and putting our mark on the world; then 'everything changes' is not a burden when we live with the possibility that with each breath we are loving our Self.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Addictions


Addictions seems to be the theme for this week. Addicted to feelings, thoughts, patterns of behaviors. Addictions that cause pain and suffering and unhealthy ways of coping with both.

I am moving to a new home that I just bought; an old pattern was broken...that of avoiding a permanent home. And while getting ready for the move I have not asked one person to help me; stuck in an old pattern that I can do it myself, thank you very much. Although some have offered I am no where ready to direct them is my thought.

So I became addicted to my thoughts that were running at least two hundred miles an hour as I ran from one part of my condo to the other never completing a task. I started to pack a shelf of books and came across a book that needed to be in another box in the office so I took it there and got involved in checking my e-mail and responding to the latest memo then realizing I was thirsty and walked toward the kitchen and stopped to relieve myself and found something on the bathroom counter that needed to be thrown out in the kitchen and picked it up walked into the kitchen to grab a snack and seeing an empty box into kitchen that could be filled.

Now that I look back it was like I used to do when I was out of control and needed to be on lithium. I did not think there was another way of doing this preparation until this morning while I waited for the plumber to repair the flapper in the toilet tank. I could not leave as I did yesterday. Perhaps I was a bit exhausted by the running and moving all week so I stayed in the house looking at my to-do list to complete tasks I had started. I looked on list and started to complete items left over from other days.

Thank G!D it is Shabbat and that I choose to rest.

Blessings of the Vav: sometimes there are too many 'ands' to manage. Slowing down helps me move outside of the old patterns I am addicted to and think, discern and be kind to myself.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Find Yourself a Teacher, Friends


When I first met Stephen Levine I wanted to speak with him during a break in his workshop. The line I waited in was slow as he gave personal attention to each participant. As I came within about five feet from him I started crying uncontrollably and had to leave the room and never got to talk with him personally. After I went home from the workshop I wrote him a letter about my experience and asked the questions I had not been able to ask earlier. He wrote back, answered the questions and wrote ‘you are your own teacher, trust yourself, treasure yourself and trust the process.’ Every once in while when I am starving for a mentor or one person who I can go to I soothe myself with these words. And then I remember that in Hebrew Wisdom my teacher, myself is always there in the Indwelling Presence of G!D, Shekhinah.

Then I start thinking about all the people who teach me what I need to know and the mentors who lead me through the labyrinth of my life because they have been there first. And I smile at another moment when I chose to be kind to myself.

Blessing of the Vav: the fullness of one's life is in the acknowledging of the souls within it and the variation of choices we make. Life is not flat.

A Core Value: Kindness


Today I spoke with my landlord who will soon be my neighbor. She lives in New York and was so appreciative of my help in caring for her condo. I began to respond with lots of words and then I stopped and said, ‘it is just basic kindness, Anne Marie’ and tears started to come to my eyes.

My thesaurus states that kindness is also caring, sympathetic, nice, gentle, thoughtful, compassionate, benevolent, humane, considerate, benign, humanitarian.

I remembered the day we buried my Father of blessed memory how sharp cornered everything felt and when the funeral director softened those corners for me I felt embraced and tenderly held and was able to take a deep breath. When I thanked him he said ‘it is just basic kindness’ and I thought yes it is and why is it not like breath to me?

I went to Club Med recently and was blown away by their hospitality. My heart waited for the ball to drop, the welcome to end, the warmth to cool, the generosity to shrink up until it didn’t and I was able to soak up their caring, generous, authentic spirit and by the time I left my heart had so enjoyed mirroring their welcome that I felt as if I owned the place. I was at home in their home.

At my 45th High School reunion I was on an emotional high having set myself up for the pleasure of being with the people who I so enjoyed being with in 1959-1961. Nothing could nor did douse my spirit. During the evening one of my classmates came over to me and said you were kind then and you are still so kind. To my memory no one had ever said that about me to me. Today I am beginning to see a pattern of one of my core values, kindness.

Blessings of the Vav: going up and down the ladder of the Vav allows me to be like Jacob's angels who went up and then down. Each time I go up to an experience I bring back with me an awareness of the Divine moment and weave a distinct unique me.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Coming Out is Getting Easier To Do


I asked a client once to monitor when he noticed that he was editing or withholding any information. He used the word ‘appalling’ to describe the amount of information he chose not to disclose. He and I are very much alike. If I got paid for how much I edit in my conversations I would be a millionaire. I do not think he and I were always like this; we learned this skill.

At 65 I seem to be noticing that I am blessed with an ease of speaking out information that once was too difficult to let go of and maybe I am returning to a state where I feel safe enough to handle the effects of my words. A long time ago a wise friend once told me that there are three reasons one comes out or speaks freely from the heart: to push people away, to bring people closer and to just be oneself. My intention and deepest desire is to heal the world one heart at a time by going deeper with my conversations and relationships with myself as well as with others. Recently I heard from a friend older than I that as you age you edit less as ‘what have you got to lose?’ Hebrew Wisdom might say this 'de-editing' is a process of circumcising the heart, of removing the layers that hide the purity of the soul and redeeming the spark that is you.

Usually the phrase ‘coming out’ is linked with the gay community. As an advocate and trainer for making the environment at work ‘gay friendly’ it is a term I am comfortable with as being one’s self is energizing. It takes a lot of work to withhold information. As the country western song goes ‘you got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away and know what to keep.’ A core teaching of Hebrew Wisdom is to know oneself so you can love your neighbor. My self-awareness comes through trial and lots of tripping, deep contemplation and writing and living in community with family, friends, colleagues and angels who gift me with a mirror of my behavior when I dared to look.

I learned a very long time ago that if I edit my thoughts and emotions then I could be a chameleon and invisible and safe and not rock the boat. Of course this is a conundrum since I want to be known, appreciated, included and love to have fun.

Coming out comes in various flavors and patterns. Yesterday I self disclosed to a client what we both knew was true and yet could have been left unspoken. My client is a Southern Baptist and she was listening and beginning to trust me someone who would never believe that Jesus Christ is her savior and therefore by traditional teachings was going to hell. I wanted us to live in that awkward place and to see if we could raise each of us up to our highest good to explore this paradox. We continue to be committed to our growth.

I've noticed that in the last six months I have started freeing my ideas. First came exposing a dream that seemed to have no roots other than in my head: starting the Society of the Vav blog. Then I wrote about completing the Miami Marathon while walking for all the lonely people who give up on their dreams like I have done in the past. Inserting Hebrew Wisdom, honoring my Jewish roots, was also a step in coming out. Then I decided to write to each old and present client that I am building my practice. I can still hear the voices saying 'why do you have to tell them that?' And I feel the earth under my feet shaking while knowing that the Earth is my G!D and She has got me covered.

And the internal judger still sits guarding the gate of my tongue testing my intention to free my soul.

Blessings of the Vav: there is always space to add what was left out intentionally or unintentionally when I remember it is my life I am saving.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Vav as a Symbol of Paradox


There she stands, the Vav, erect, with her little hook on top amidst the six directions holding all, being the center of all there is. The Vav connects differences that need to be held in order to appreciate the whole for only when we know all options can we move forward and not feel caught as victims in our life.
Lately I have heard myself saying I must embrace the paradox when I have been in conversation with people who feel confronted with a dilemma and are needing to make choices between two options. They feel frozen in time not liking either choice or are choosing to check out and not even look back at what they are leaving because it is too painful.
I listen to them feeling their frustration and I listen to me waiting for something to arise where I can offer another perspective. As a sensitive I feel what they feel and am blinded by fear, old habits locking me into a rut that has become so familiar it seems to fit perfectly. And in the silence of no words I breathe deeply asking Ayecha, where are you? Somehow I am awakened and become the sixth letter of Hebrew Wisdom the Vav who sees in all directions and am unlocked from whatever has held me captive, free to be clear in a vision for the next moment and I speak what the Vav has offered. And I see a smile or hear 'I had not thought of that' and I say a prayer of gratitude for another life has been saved.

Blessings of the Vav: being given the opportunity of taking a deep breathe to live in the silence without fear and to appreciate all possibilities including self love.

Monday, April 7, 2008

This Nearly Was Mine

Blessings of being awake: While walking this morning I found myself singing 'This Nearly was Mine'. I had heard the rendition at a show the other night and it had left a vivid impression. In my heart I felt the yearning of the song writer as I remembered hearing Itzio Pinza singing of his lost love in South Pacific. 'This nearly was mine?' I said to myself. I answered 'What was nearly mine. What did I miss out on and what really is mine?' 'No thing and everything' was the response.
Spiritual challenge:The truth is nothing is mine and when I get caught up in all the absoluteness of a two year old I can only bring myself to a very narrow place. My idea, my thought, my whatever separates me from the world. Even the thought that I missed out on something only brings sadness and doing it not right in my heart. As a teenage mother who still thinks her daughter is hers this is a call to wake to the truth that she never was mine and will always be my daughter to share with the world.
In Mystical Hebrew Wisdom the physical world, the world of doing, is perfect just the way it is. It might not be how I would want it to be and yet this is what I got.
Spiritual Practice: So again I am given another choice of noticing the feeling and choosing how to interpret the emotion, what thought to give it. Since I do not know the ending, I will just notice the feeling and wonder and choose not to prophesize. Since this is Nisan, the month when we honor the story of the Exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt I am singing another song; 'I am opening up to sweet surrender to the luminous love light of the One. This is mine, my heritage,my faith, my G!D.
Blessings of the Vav: when we hold it all and it feels too much to hold let it go, give it up and be just here.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Living One Life; Being a Rabbi Who Loves Her Leadership Development Work.


Create Me a sanctuary and I will dwell there. Exodus, 25:8

When I am facilitating a small group usually I set an intention, a deep desire, before we begin. It helps me to remember why I came to work that day. The list includes to have fun, to laugh and to learn. Collaboration is my core value and gathering the wisdom of the group and not being the only expert are also my intentions. So after I write 'Welcome' and the above intentions on the board I have begun also drawing a circle in two parts with arrows facing the same direction; I label these arrows as 'giving' and 'receiving'. My hope is that the conversations between us will be rich and fruitful.

In Zami, African American essayist, poet and novelist Audre Lord 's autobiography (1934-1992) she describes herself as an only child who is like her mother and her father; she wants to enter and be entered. My first reading evoked sexual thoughts and feelings. As an only child I have have often wondered 'am I more akin to my mother or my father' and Lorde offered me the freedom to be like both. A teacher, Marc Gafni, used to say the sexual only models the erotic and is not the only the erotic. In Mystical Hebrew Wisdom a person is considered to have both male and female characteristics and simplistically said with the female as the receiver, the left side of the body, and the male as the giver, the right side of the body, and the potentiality of the two coming together is the ultimate connection in making the world a better place. Jung and other psychologists have agreed and Jung named the parts anima and animus.

Last night when my teacher Rabbi Miriam Shulamite Ribner taught on the female essence of G!D, Shekhinah, I felt my worlds coming together. In setting an intention for giving and receiving I am creating a vessel for the Divine Feminine to be in the midst of our conversation so that creativity, wisdom, and change will be linked bringing forth the sparks of new ideas and the potential of breaking old patterns.

A few weeks ago that is exactly what happened. I do not know if anyone in the group would have called it holy; I did and I knew it was different from what I had experienced in the past and very powerful. We became One as a group supporting each other, present in our conversations and uniquely distinctive in our way of being. Some say love is a process of both giving and receiving; perhaps that was what I was feeling, what I desire from the intention I set.

Blessing of the Vav; the potentiality to rise, to give, to receive and create a holy vessel of transformation all in one moment and to experience love. After all I heard from my heroes the Beatles 'that is all you need'.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Teach What You Need To Learn


In a coaching session last week where I was the client my coach intuitively reflected to me the phrase You are the One and you are the one. I have been trying to bring clarity to the primary focus for my work and do not want to give up on this gift of words. It holds a paradox and a truth that cannot be denied. And I ask myself are these the words of my soul's mission?

Whenever I am scared beyond any control I may have over my life I say 'Sh'ma Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echod'... Hear, Israel, the Creator of All Life, Your God, is One.' When I am dealing with the thoughts of competition or envy I usually remember the teaching of the Great Ari, mystical teacher of Kabbalah, who taught that there is not one moment in time like another and so each one of us is unique. I remember then that I have a choice whether to suffer or not. What if I believed and lived You are the One and you are the one when I was not afraid or in the middle of services three times a day praying it? What would my life be like, I wonder.

When a friend was coming back to the faith of her birth she would say the constructs over and over and although she said it felt awkward at first eventually she really believed that Jesus was her savior. Over the last few days I have been saying You are the One and you are the one over and over again getting to know it better and waiting for the internal 'YES!' to evolve. I am getting to know the words and am going deeper with the phrase and yet I am not there yet, not even in the knowing of where 'there' is.

This morning I remembered 'teach what you need to learn' and I laughed and said well of course if I want to really get to know this phrase I must speak it out loud, remember it when I am in a narrow place and when I am in joy and write about it until it is mine.

Identity seems to be a theme of people with my ilk; seeking who I am and what am I doing in the world to make it a better place. We seem to consistently forget until a reflection reminds us of the truth that we are doing good things in the world, we do have a unique gift to give and we are more alike and than different. What if each moment of consciousness reminded me of You are the One and you are the one? I am curious.

So two days after the 'hidden was revealed' on Purim on this Easter day when my neighbors are celebrating the resurrection of Christ I am sitting beside them in the universe honoring the coming of Spring, the opportunity to free myself from the constraints of separateness and to experience my at One-ment and the unique gifts we, me included, bring to the world. May we use them for good.

Blessing of the Vav: Life is dynamic and continuous and inclusive.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Blessing the Naked Soul



Today I did some internal work with a dear friend who loves me. How else could I stand there naked and not be modest. "Ayecha, Where are you?" G!D asks Adam and he replies with a history of the past. Well that was not the correct answer for it was only a story. We want the naked truth.

Where are you right now in real time; in your physical surroundings, what are you feeling, what are the thoughts roaming in the head and where are you in connection to your Divine Self?

In the work of Byron Katie you cannot escape the truth; you can only gently unpack through inquiry-asking the questions, slowly carefully stripping down and uncovering the truth at the very core of your being.... that is love.

The process reminds me of studying Torah and going deeper seeking the hidden beneath the surface words, going for the holy. When I first began studying the Bible I found it boring until I began looking at the characters as human beings who I could be in relationship with and in getting to know them I could get to know me.

In this month of Purim when the hidden is revealed and Esther's coming-out saves a nation and in the moon's changing face we move closer to the freedom of Passover I begin to notice my clearing out preparation for being re-birthed.

Blessing of the Vav: welcoming home all of yourself no matter what it looks like or how much you do not want to admit it belongs to you: the opportunity to get to know the soul's destiny while in relationship with every element of our life.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Growing the Tree Outside the Fence


Speeding down the road on Sunday my peripheral vision caught sight of a row of trees growing on the highway side of a very high fence set on a rise. The trees were equally spaced and appeared to be trimmed to perfection and the roots of the trees were proudly showing themselves creating a distinctive contrast to the earth and the fence. I thought ‘wow a tree growing outside a fence’. I kept repeating the phrase as I sped along yearning for slower traffic or that I was in the right hand lane and could stop to take a photo to remember the beauty I had seen and the thought that followed.

When I began coming back to Judaism Rabbi David Zeller, a mentor and friend and now of blessed memory, asked me what kind of rabbi do you want to be? I intuitively responded ‘one that takes down the fence around the Torah.’ I did not know what that meant or would look like. And I sensed that there was something of Judaism that was not being shared.

When I had this conversation I had just returned from traveling for a year around the world where I had exposed myself to many traditions and in reflection to these holy teachings I was beginning to see the richness of the tradition of my birth and wanted to share this joy. I was like the recovering addict who had found truth and now wanted everyone to be saved, too.

Several years later I am more articulate and I hope more kind to myself and more inclusive; I am committed to sharing Hebrew Wisdom with my world as a way of joining with other faiths in making the world a better place. As anything kept secret takes lots of energy to hold back. And when I read and hear about Christian values and Buddhist practice and Islamic teachings all in one place and the writers rarely invoke Hebrew Wisdom I am confused. I do not understand why. I only know I feel invisible. My ego will not let me rest in that place; my soul pushes me forward.

In Pirke Avot, Teachings of the Fathers, one of the books of the Talmud that is considered an Oral Torah or a rabbinic interpretation of the scriptures and how to interpret and apply the Law I have read ‘make a fence around the Torah’. A metaphor for the Torah is the Tree of Life.

A fence keeps out an unwanted element and protects what lays within. I often ask what is in my heart that needs protection and what is in Hebrew Wisdom that needs to be known? Will I care for what is taken out from the fence? Can I live a life where there is no hierarchy of wisdom and that we each have our own path to coming Home? And that sometimes that path is woven with elements from other places. The Society of the Vav says ‘yes' and please do it now.

Several years ago in a very intuitive moment I created the collage above. I now call it 'the tree growing outside the fence.'

Blessing of the Vav: taking a moment to have some fun in noticing with the innocence of a non-judging mind your relationship with your fence; what does your fence look like, where does it exist, what does it protect, who does it let in or keep out, and what do you want to learn?

Monday, March 10, 2008

The American Legacy Inclusive® Dictionary Denounces 'But'

With Perry Como singing in the background the old favorite ‘More' by Alex Alstone and lyrics by Tom Glazer, the President of the Board of The American Legacy Inclusive ® Dictionary made a statement to the press today that the word 'but' would be removed from its latest edition. With pressures arising from peace activists, liberal Democrats and universalistic groups their spokesperson said they had no other choice.
A recent poll of popular culture and Generation X found that 'but' was used less than 'and' as the conjunction of choice and therefore the publishers were swayed to support their core American values found in the poem by Emma Lazarus: "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me free’: no one will be left out. Despite the fact that distribution of incomes which show that incomes are less evenly distributed than they were 20 or 30 years ago America is still viewed as the land of opportunity. The board wants to begin changing the way we talk so that we can change the way we think. They believe, with encouragement from Harvard based developmental researchers that if we keep placing ‘but’ after each statement of fact we are creating barriers to our forward motion and maintaining America’s leading edge in the free world. ‘We are victims of our mind that keep us small. We are ignoring our dreams and possibilities.’ The board concurs that in order to create change in the world ‘but’ has to be deleted and replaced in each sentence so that we can rise to a higher standard of problem solving. As Einstein once stated we must use paradoxical thinking, we cannot solve our problems at the level where they are created.

Quoting William James pioneering American psychologist and philosopher whose core values of 'more, more, more! is the only way to go” as told to this reporter by the infamous HS Bar Levin. Also in a recent sermon the Pope supported that 'the heart of his God can hold an infinite amount of love there are no buts about this' he assured his listeners.

The board was met with some opposition by those who wrote multiple page theses that supported the impossibility of cleaning up all the 'buts'. Yet The American Legacy Inclusive ® Dictionary board remained firm in their conviction that if language was going to change the world then must be at the forefront of such change. 'But' is Out is a campaign for the American Legacy Inclusive® Dictionary across all 50 states. Surprisingly Japan, France and Syria each have written letters as well as Israel supporting this decision that has shattered Strunk and Whyte to the core. S & W believes that all conjunctions are necessary to give people options. Using the Hebrew alphabet for support by referencing the sixth letter Vav the American Legacy Inclusive® Dictionary is assured that 'and' will save the world.

For reference we included this information about the word ‘but’, conjunction and preposition.

1. Indicating contrast; however, on the other hand, in contrast, nevertheless, still, yet, though, on the contrary, but then, but as you see; see also although.
2. Indicating an exception; except, save, disregarding, without, not including, not taking into account, let alone, leaving out of consideration, aside from, with the exception of, not to mention, passing over, barring, setting aside, forgetting, omitting (to mention); see also except.
3. Indicating a limitation; only, only just, merely, simply, barely, solely, purely, just, no more, exactly, no other than, without.

Epilogue: Most of the above is true and the rest is pure fantasy by the author. The Society of the Vav is encouraging the board of directors of American Legacy Inclusive Dictionary to reconsider their decision since whether we like 'but' or not it is a force to be acknowledged.

Blessing of the Vav: beginning to notice with humor when you use the word 'but', when you judge the other and do not want them in your life, and when you let your imagination fly free from any encumbants and experience the joy of freedom.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Circle of Life: Redeeming the Sparks


Here is a cheer for putting ideas out there and if the spark is meant to be redeemed and live then the idea will return. I have been pushing what I thought was my own agenda about the word and along with the word but. I am holding the intention that we live one life, hence the Society of the Vav; this phrase is a vital part of me so that anything that works at separating jars me as nails on a blackboard. I see the word but as stopping the flow of the energy of life.

Recently I received two emails that told me that the idea may hold some truth with some people I am getting to know better.

From Z: I'm finally ready to give up the job if I can't get paid more adequately and my partner is behind me 100% in this AND (vav) have had some ideas about other venues for my teaching, leadership and singing, so it will be good either way. It's a very Vav-ish place to be, really!

From G: Am working with you to 'de-but' the world, it seems an honorable cause.

Like many, my ideas take form within me and when I ‘out’ these sparks and when they are heard and echoed back to me there is a joy of validation for the journey of mattering in the world. So come on out and play! As my teacher Rabbi Shawn says ' your shyness does not serve you.'

Blessing of the Vav: beginning to notice the fractals, repeating patterns, in your life and your patience and impatience at waiting for the connections to show up; when do you look at your life as a continuous thread you keep weaving with new threads?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Moving onto Holy Ground


Uncharacteristic of previous times I decided that after being away for two weeks that I would not jump into my typical 'catch up head down myopic do not stop until i am totally back into a neat unpacked orderly space' mode and that I would live like a millionaire; breathe, making space to noticing that I had choices. So two times on my first day home I went swimming. And each time as I sunk into the water I felt held by the Divine and breathed deeply into that awareness and smiled. Today it rained so I chose to just take the time to sit with the sounds of water .

Blessing of the Vav: when do you you experience a feeling, name it loneliness and then notice that it is only a thought attached to a feeling and may not be entirely true?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Blessings on your Going and Coming


There is a song I love to sing especially on the Sabbath. Shalom Aleikhem first appeared in print some 450 years ago and welcomes the angels and asks for their blessings when our home is peacefully ready for as Rav Heschel calls her a cathedral in time of rest. I often use the final line as a mantra in meditation as the mind wanders from the aliveness of being Here. I feel a peace rolling over me in knowing that I am not alone on the travels of the mind as I repeat to myself ‘for the angels are instructed to guard you in all ways and you will be protected on your going and your coming for now and for all time.’

I have also sung this liturgical poem as I sit by the bedside of a friend who is dying and with my 83 year old friend who was once a Hebrew scholar as we hold hands and walk back to her room of the nursing home where she lives. Beside knowing the words and enjoying the familiar melody I love the thought of invoking the messengers of G!D’s Presence wherever I go.

Each time I travel my daughter Ilana blesses me that I should sit next to an angel. When she speaks the words I always wonder what these angels will look like. I am hopeful and skeptical. I just returned from two weeks of travel and as I lay in bed musing on the experiences I am very aware that at both ends of my trip I was blessed.

My first angel whirled in and quickly sat across from me by the airline gate where I was waiting. Sensing her presence I had to look up to see what was there. What caught my eye was her rhinestone pin on her black sweater: Hillary 2008. I smiled as I caught her eye and gave her a thumb up as I pointed to her pin. She smiled back and we quickly moved from superficial to a deeper conversation while waiting for our plane. I wanted to follow up on our conversation so out of character for me I asked for her personal information as I gave her my card. There was a hope of the possibility we would connect when we were both in town. I felt excited about this new soul entering my life that was a contrast to what I already knew. What a way to start the journey, I felt energized and excited about what else would come my way. And I was not disappointed!
Then on my way back to Florida there was open seating and I quickly made my way toward the exit row seats where I could have some breathing room. As I made my self-comfortable I turned around and saw a woman behind me getting ready to squeeze into the other bus like rows. Without a thought I quickly invited her to join me where there was foot room and she came right around and sat next to me. When I hang out in an airport for five hours I feel a kinship to those around me and I began a conversation with her and she was easy to connect with. Since I knew public transportation was not possible I had reserved a car to drive home. And to my delightful surprise the invited guest had a car and lived very close to me. She offered to take me to my home. Our drive home confirmed for me that we are more alike than different and I again felt honored by Presence.

In a world that is becoming more driven by fear it is imperative that I remember that the world owes me nothing and that I owe the world love and gratefulness for the gift of life. In this knowing my inner home feels peaceful as I rest in the moment of timelessness and know I am blessed on my going and coming and this time I could not only feel the Presence I could see Her variation of colors in the amazing women who are being fully alive in their life. May everyone be so blessed.

Blessing of the Vav: noticing and holding the contrasting colors, emotions and thoughts as One.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Flowing into the Wind


This morning my walking partner stopped my forward motion so I could see what she saw and what I would have missed if I had stayed goal focused. I turned to where she was pointing and saw a version of my namesake; a magnificent beauty on the edge of the water, white, still, elegant with the wind moving her tail feathers in a delicate dance around her feet. I was awe struck. As I noticed the wind’s affect I too felt the wind blowing in my face, my face caressed by my G!D.

When I was learning to fly our Tri-Pacer I was training myself to be aware of the windsock’s movement and direction; for planes as birds must fly into the wind, must meet the on coming draft to be able to get off the ground. In Hebrew wind is Ruach the same name for a level of soul as well as of Spirit.

This morning I was given a gift. I slowed down, saw my reflection in another Divine creation and remembered I can only fly with support.

Blessing of Vav: going against the wind still means you are in a relationship.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Beginner’s Mind


Today I took my first portraiture class. A friend had recommended it and when I thought about the experience I got very excited. I love to doodle and my journals are filled with fun drawings only lately have I tried to be less of an impressionist and more of a realistic with eye pleasing results.

During the class I concentrated so deeply that I was not aware of anyone just the face of the woman and the paper and my hand moving the pencil. At some point the teacher came over to me and her voice brought me back into the room. She made some comment about distance and shape and I realized all my concentration was not getting it ‘right.’

This is hard I thought and I felt like a beginner, humbled by the steep learning curve that lay ahead. And when I said out loud ‘this is humbling’ my teacher responded ‘and exciting and challenging’, too. She was right. I had put myself into a new situation where I was learning and I felt awkward, like a beginner. And I had a choice as to how to proceed.

I remembered the Llama in Nepal telling me that we are all beginners when I told him I was just learning Buddhism. I breathed deeply and felt more equal with him and more able to listen. So I decided to get out of my way of being perfect and just have fun and love the drawing I did even if the eyes were not geographically correct.

I like consciously giving myself permission to have fun being a beginner. I wondered about my clients and how they deal in new territory. Nothing is ever the same as each moment is unique so laughing is essential, especially at myself. I can live a more erotic life that way.